PEET and NSF and jobs

Luis A. Ruedas lruedas at SEVILLETA.UNM.EDU
Wed Nov 27 08:26:00 CST 1996

> Recently there was some mail traffic about the lack of posistions for
> systematists, with a comment that indirect costs from large grants are
> what fuel deans' decisions to hire gene-cloners and the like rather than
> systematists, whose grant proposals are less burdened with impedimenta.
> Does anyone know what proportion of grants have indirect costs based on
> the total granted amount and what proportion have indirect costs based
> on just salaries? If indirect costs were mainly based on salaries,
> perhaps we can't be so righteous; on the other hand, I figure that PEET
> is no incentive to train more systematists when jobs are scarce, some
> incentive like doubling indirect costs on systematics grants (like
> double coupons) would be far more productive of healthy systematics in
> the next century.

At this and most other institutions that I know of, overhead costs are
based on the total amount of the request, irrespective of salaries or
other grant proposal components.  Here at UNM, even airplane tickets to
foreign countries are assessed the on-campus overhead rate (?!), and
getting the off-campus overhead rate is quite difficult.

I'm not sure that the PEET initiative has either helped or hindered
systematics in general.  Seems more like a reward for past honorifics
than a useful granting system.  I suspect the money would be better spent
helping young investigators (being one myself) rather than people in the
waning stages of their carreers who more than likely do not need the
money any more (sound bitter? sorry...).  Since NSF budgets have
experienced no or negligible (or is it even negative?) growth of late,
the PEET initiative merely removed funds from general systematics
research and funneled it elsewhere to areas unavailable to systematists
at large.  When the initiative came out, I called the program officer for
information.  She flat out told me not to bother applying!  Call your
senators (particularly Barb Mikulski [D-MD, Appropriations Committee;
(202) 224-4654 or (410) 962-4510; senator at] and Pete
Domenici [R-NM, Appropriations; (202) 224-6621 or (505) 988-6511;
senator_domenici at]) since ultimately, they are
responsible for doling out NSF's meager funds.  Demonstrating support to
these individuals for increased funding of NSF may have a far greater impact
than discussing the same topic on this list-server...

Finally, doubling IDC on systematics grants appears to me to be the
single most counterproductive item anyone could think of to help
systematics.  It's not as if IDC's aren't already exorbitantly high!  At
UNM I thought they were astronomical at 48%, but I come to find out that
is a low figure compared to other institutions!  There is a statistically
unexamined inverse relationship between probability of successful funding
at NSF and amount of funds requested.  Accordingly, if anything, you
might want to halve the IDC in order to get grants.  However, try getting
that through your institutional research office...

I don't mean to stoke any flames...


                            Luis A. Ruedas
                    Museum of Southwestern Biology
                         Department of Biology
                       University of New Mexico
                  Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87131-1091

voice: 505/277-5340                               fax: 505/277-0304
                  e-mail: lruedas at

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